THE fall in the international ratings of third-level colleges in Ireland is shocking but hardly surprising given the chronic lack of funding they continue to endure.
Trinity College Dublin remains our leading university but its ranking has fallen from 43rd in the world in 2009 to 98th this year. It is still Ireland’s only university within the top 100 — but only just. If the current trend continues, it is likely to lose that status next year.
Leaving our university chronically short of funds is a false economy in a number of ways. Firstly, university rankings are the most important factor for international students when it comes to deciding where they wish to study. International students are most likely to be swayed by a university’s league table position and, because they pay full fees, they are an important source of income for colleges.
Secondly, while teaching is at the heart of third-level education, research is also hugely important not just for the institution itself but to the economy as a whole. It is often where successful business ideas emerge.
Research leads to development and campus start-ups which directly leads to job creation, so cutting funding for that research makes no sense.
Third-level funding must be addressed as a matter of urgency. If that means the re-introduction of fees with a student loan scheme, so be it. Doing nothing is not an option.
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